The Biggest Networking Challenge

The Networking Nemesis

Shaking hands ata networking meeting

There are a number of challenges when it comes to networking but the biggest networking challenge, the real ‘Networking Nemesis’ is, perhaps, a little surprising;  it’s Human Nature.

Let me explain what I mean by that.

Some time ago a survey was carried out to establish exactly what it is that people fear the most  – to find out, exactly, what our biggest fears are.  Unbelievably, the fear of dying only managed to make it to number 3!!  Number 2 turned out to be the fear of walking in to a room full of strangers and the number 1 fear is the fear of public speaking.

When you think about these two biggest fears, in relation to networking, you can start to understand what I mean about human nature, can’t you?

After all, one of the critical elements of networking is expanding our circle of contacts and in most networking groups or organisations, inviting visitors along is a core activity.  As is the expectation of delivering the archetypal ’60 Second Presentation’ to the attendees present.

Presenting to a Room Full of Strangers

For many people, going networking means facing and overcoming, these two major fears:  Facing and overcoming the biggest networking challenge, the ‘Networking Nemesis’.

Visitors and the Networking Nemesis

Imagine a visitor, a ‘networking newbie’, turning up to their first networking meeting and preparing to walk in to a room full of strangers in the knowledge that, at some point during the meeting, they’re going to have to stand up and speak to the room.  Better still, just go back in your mind to the first time you attended a networking meeting and remember how you felt when you were faced with those exact same circumstances.

Offering a Handshake to make visitors to your networking group feel welcomeOf course, to some of you, that wouldn’t have led to any undue stress or nervousness – but, if that’s you, then trust me when I tell you that you’re in the minority.  Most people find the idea of walking in to a room full of strangers pretty daunting and will be feeling, at least, a little nervous at the prospect of it.  That’s why I believe that human nature really is the biggest networking challenge, the real ‘Networking Nemesis’.

And these feelings don’t just affect the visitors, the strangers to the group.  They affect the regulars of the group, as well.  Let me explain.

Members and the Networking Nemesis

Have you ever gone to a networking event as a visitor and felt that the group was very cliquey?  Well, that fear of walking into a room full of strangers is rooted in the fear of simply talking to strangers and many people find that uncomfortable.

A natural consequence of that feeling of discomfort is to put off the action that leads to the discomfort.  It’s an unconscious thing, of course, but in this instance, talking to your friends, the other regulars of the meeting that you know well, is an easy way to put off that feeling of discomfort.  When this is happening on a large scale with the members of a networking group, visitors will see the group as being ‘cliquey’ and, as a result, not feel particularly welcome.

How does this ‘Nemesis Effect’ Manifest itself and What can we do to Overcome it?

Well, any visitor that’s feeling at all nervous about attending the meeting will, unconsciously, be looking for an easy way to put off the discomfort that they feel.  In the end, they may choose not to attend the meeting and cancel at the last minute for, what appears to be, no good reason.

If that has happened to one of your guests, or if it does happen, just consider what we’re discussing here, be patient and extend your invitation to them, once more.

Don't appear cliquey by excluding visitors to your networking groupWhen visitors do turn up to a meeting, the very worst thing that can happen to them is that no-one talks to them, that they end up standing alone and that the group comes across to them as being very ‘cliquey’.

Make sure that all of the regulars are ‘coached’ to understand this element of human nature and make sure that being welcoming to visitors is high on everyone’s list of priorities.  Visitors should always be engaged in conversation and never left alone.  In addition to this,when you’re talking to a visitor, don’t exclude other regulars. Introduce the visitors to them and get as many people as possible to join in the conversation as this makes the whole group seem very friendly.

Remember, if your networking group is hoping to gain new membership then we need to do more than this.

I like to think that we should always be looking to instil a ‘warm and fuzzy’ feeling in visitors.  After all, who knows what may happen if they enjoy the experience.

  • They could become your next best customer
  • They could become a great friend
  • You could end up having a great collaborative relationship with them and
  • They may even decide that they’d like to become the next ‘regular’ in your group.

It’s up to all of us to be mindful of human nature and how it can come in to play with regard to networking.  Once we understand it, it’s quite simple to deal with but it will never go away.

If this post has made you think, please share it with your contacts.  And don’t forget to leave your feedback, below.

Have a great day,

Steve Bimpson

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